This isn’t to say that Trump can’t get laughs. It’s simply that when he gets them, he’s humiliating people—whether “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Lyin” Ted Cruz or “Little” Marco Rubio. Humor borne out of cruelty happens to be the easiest and therefore lowest form of comedy: It is cheap stuff and it does not elevate the candidate, nor make him a more fundamentally sympathetic character. And when Trump does manage to grab laughs, his smile is a forced, flat line—a concess
.. The electorate opts for serious leaders, but almost always men who are able to poke fun at themselves—and the gravitas of their position. Nobody has proved quite as adept as laughing at himself as former President George W. Bush, who willingly conceded to being a class clown, even as a candidate in 1999.
.. Bush, no policy expert, sought laughs for his intellectual and rhetorical shortcomings. At the 2001 White House Correspondents Dinner, he conceded, “Now ladies and gentlemen, you have to admit that in my sentences, I go where no man has gone before.”
When they finally got into the room, reporters asked questions of the two leaders regarding Duterte’s controversial human rights record and whether Trump would raise it with him. Here’s what happened next:Duterte: “We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and … with you around, guys, you are the spies.”“Hah, hah, hah,” Trump said laughing.“You are,” Duterte repeated.Um, what?Even after his meeting with Duterte, Trump — in an open session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting — seemed entirely unfazed by his colleague’s view on the press. He thanked Duterte “very much for the way you treated all of us.”
But even if Trump is unable to laugh at himself, that hasn’t stopped him from repeatedly claiming to have been “joking” or “kidding” in the wake of several controversial statements.
.. The most recent example, before his purportedly sarcastic remarks about Clinton and Obama being the co-founders of ISIS
.. It is possible to both laugh at what he is saying and to understand that it is deadly serious.
.. Trump isn’t being sarcastic—being sarcastic requires an understanding of nuance, of irony, of playfulness. And just as his politics demonstrate little more awareness of how complex the world actually is than a drunk uncle’s lengthy Facebook comment, Trump displays the same sense of humor: small-minded and mean and totally, totally unfunny.
As Trump himself might say, there’s something going on.
The less honest you are with yourself, the less likely you are to laugh.
.. “There’s a huge correlation showing that people who score high in self-deception laugh less,” Lynch told me. Furthermore, he said, “there’s a pretty robust correlation between self-deception and an inflated ego, or unwarranted high self-esteem. Some of the self-deception is telling yourself that you’re greater, more powerful, smarter than you are.”.. It’s a lot harder to laugh when you don’t recognize absurdity. Think of how much Trump must have had to lie to himself, perhaps even unconsciously, in order to convince millions that Obama was born in Kenya.. (By the way, the liars-laugh-less formulation doesn’t work in reverse: People who don’t laugh aren’t necessarily self-deceptive or narcissistic at all... some people don’t laugh out of low self-esteem. “Self-deception,” Lynch estimates, “explains about 20 percent of why people don’t laugh.” Besides, if we didn’t tell ourselves little white lies, he adds, “we wouldn’t get out of the bed in the morning.”).. “Superficially, the problem that torments Trump is trade. But his language—they ‘beat’ us and ‘laugh’ at us—provokes the emotional power of shame,”.. “all about shame—avoiding it himself, and inflicting it on others.”.. As his biographer, I see it in his struggle to satisfy a strict and demanding father and his banishment, at age 13, to a military academy in Upstate New York where, Trump has said, he was subject to violence at the hands of Army veterans who staffed the school... Trump was major-shamed again, D’Antonio writes, “when he lost his Trump Airline and the Plaza Hotel and became a symbol of failure in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Out of this defeat he fashioned a comeback that saw him become richer and more famous than ever.”.. At the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, for example, President Obama coolly humiliated the birther-in-chief, getting the crowd and soon the whole world to laugh at him, while Trump sat there stone-faced. In all likelihood, that experience motivated him to finally make a real run for the presidency... As best we can tell, Trump’s whole psychological dynamic might be explained as a serial encounter with public shame over his fear of inadequacy... Like Dostoevsky’s The Gambler, Trump likes the thrill of getting so close to being exposed and still winning—until, of course, he finally loses, which may be what he really wants.. “laughter relieves shame.” Laughing, especially at oneself, “is one of the main ways in which shame can be dissipated or released.”